Children’s services in Mass. to be overhauled

By Lindsey Stokes
Staff Writer

Governor Charlie Baker ordered new policies aimed at fixing the state’s dysfunctional child welfare agency in a statement Sept. 28.

Sign protesting the Department of Children and Families
(Photo from Communities Digital News)

The new policies proposed by Baker will attempt to reduce the caseloads handled by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) social workers, and evaluate and prioritize allegations of abuse and neglect as they are received. Despite a series of critical reports, the basic procedures at DCF have not changed in more than a decade.

As a result, confusion and miscommunication occurred between social workers and their field supervisors. “We are simplifying and focusing the mission: keep kids safe,” said Baker.

Baker, who made ongoing problems at DCF a key issue in his campaign for governor last year, is facing the same questions and issues as his predecessors.

A new standardized policy for assessing the level of risk facing a child is currently in development stages. It will include criminal background checks for parents, and a mandatory review of every family member’s history with DCF.

Baker said later that he did not necessarily expect more children to be removed from their homes as a result of the overhaul but did expect the new policies to clarify that the immediate safety of children always takes precedence. He said the state is committed to hiring new social workers with the goal of reducing the average number of cases handled by individual social workers from the current 20 to 18.